Co-Author of “Erasing Hell”–Changing His Position On Hell?

by Phillip on March 22, 2013

Most are unaware that since co-authoring the book, Erasing Hell with Francis Chan* (chiefly a rebuttal to Love Wins), Dr. Preston Sprinkle has publicly disclosed his struggle with the “eternal conscious torment” doctrine and has confessed his strong leanings toward Conditional Immortality or annihilationism as a more Biblical view. His recent thoughts on the subject can be found at the site “Rethinking Hell”:

Here  are a few snippets from an interview with Chris Date of

Dr. Sprinkle: “…honestly I got so annoyed and frustrated at all the books and articles that were supporting the Traditionalist view, it irritated me to no end. It just seemed very, and I’m definitely not going to name any names, very heartless. They were ranting and raving, almost like they were angry about people who disagreed with their view. And I was like, ‘We’re talking about souls here. Do you realize we’re talking about real people here?!’ It angered me because these are Evangelicals writers who are talking about what they think as a doctrine. This ain’t no doctrine, either this is real or its not. And if it’s real then we need to study this with tears and agony…whichever view…because either view is miserable.”

Preston Sprinkle here admits that either view, whether it be “eternal conscious torment” or that of God fully destroying those who do not find salvation in Jesus, “is miserable.” (Sadly this message is what we have been told is the “Good News.”)

While we commend the movement away from the “eternal conscious torment” doctrine toward a more humane paradigm of ending the life of the unrepentant instead of eternally torturing them, we do not believe it lines up with the character of God as revealed in the Scripture. To read further why we believe the Bible does not support the annihilation view please check out this article.

The conversation then uncovers some false assumptions regarding the Jewish mindset regarding “eternity,” the word “aeonios” and several other hot topics in the debate:

Chris Date: “… Traditionalist authors sometime claim that 1st century Jews were sort of monolithic in their belief in eternal torment, but as you mentioned or sort of hinted at a couple of times here that’s not what you found in your research, is it?”

Dr. Preston Sprinkle: “Not at all, no. I could give you specific references in Jewish documents that are very clearly Annihilationists. In fact that logic shows that whoever said that doesn’t know anything about Judaism because a lot of Jews didn’t have a firm belief in an everlasting afterlife at all.”

Chris presses further to clarify that Dr. Sprinkle has indeed changed his view since co-authoring Erasing Hell:

Chris Date: “…before the book and when the book was published, like Chan, you leaned towards the traditional view. I don’t get the impression that’s the case any longer. So where do you find yourself now and what since the publishing of Erasing Hell has gotten you there?”

Dr. Preston Sprinkle: “Yeah I would say…I would lean towards annihilation now…But I’m not one to hide what I believe. Again going back to my college, one of the blessings of working at a school like that is that…there’s no like weird doctrinal statement that threatens my job at all…[It’s]Be biblical, love Jesus, preach the Gospel, and we’ll keep you on here. So there’s no threat from my church, or from family, or from anyone…there’s nothing like that that’s pressuring me to hold on to a traditional view. I’m kind of a slow thinker in a sense that I don’t mind taking a few years to really work through something before I ultimately land. So going back to your question I would say I lean towards annihilation.”

I am not sure if readers of Erasing Hell clued in to a very definitive summary statement by Chan and Sprinkle in their book. It was easy to miss if you were looking to the book to support your already assumed view of an eternal hell. But Chan and Sprinkle stated clearly that the bottom line was that after all their prayer and study they remained unsure as to the duration and nature of hell and advised us to not make any assumptions until we have studied further. I realize that statement was made within a book that for the most part appeared to be making a VERY dogmatic case for eternal conscious torment but Dr. Sprinkle’s recent admission now gives a lot more credence to their advice on page 86:

“The debate about hell’s duration is much more complex than I first assumed. While I lean heavily on the side that says it is everlasting, I am not ready to claim that with complete certainty. I encourage you to continue researching…”

For Sprinkle at least, he would have to change that statement to say he is leaning more heavily towards Conditional Immortality these days. We are thankful for his transparency and honesty regarding his new thoughts on this issue. Even more so we deeply appreciate how he reminds us that this is not about a doctrine but about precious human beings who are made in God’s image. Yes, we had better decide if this is real…as Dr. Sprinkle reminded us, “it’s real people we are talking about.”

*Note: In the interview Dr. Sprinkle explains how he himself did the majority of the research for Erasing Hell as Chan shared that he did not have the time to write a book at that particular time.

Preston Sprinkle April 21, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Interesting post! Glad to hear that someone has listened to that podcast. Just to clarify, any “change” that I may have made is a change toward a more biblical position. I believe that Conditional Immortality has MORE biblical merit than the traditional view–more than I first perceived after co-writing Erasing Hell.

admin April 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

Thank you Preston for stopping by and sharing your comment. I agree that it is more Biblical to abandon a view that makes God in two minds about His creation: one to restore and the other to instead torture forever. I am thankful for the increasing number of voices out there challenging the traditional view. I was given “permission” to at least toy with the idea of Conditional Immortality when I read of the late John Stott’s position on this quite some time ago. I thought, wow, if a great scholar/theologian like JS believes this then perhaps the view of eternal conscious torment isn’t such a shut and closed case. I kept the hope to myself though.

However, I would be interested to hear what your response would be to our reasons we feel Biblically, and in the context of the Body of Christ, that Conditional Immortality still falls short of revealing God’s ultimate intention for His creation.

It is found on our other blog under the post “What about Annihilationism“?

Alex Smith August 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm

This is encouraging to hear! Seriously praying he takes (what I consider to be) the next step and becomes an EU.

Ivan A. Rogers August 20, 2013 at 10:32 am

Preston Sprinkle, who co-authored with Francis Chan the book entitled ERASING HELL is now having second-thoughts about the traditional view of hell. This is symptomatic of a growing wave of Christians who are following their hearts and instinctively know that the gentle Jesus would never say to anyone, even to his enemies, “Go to hell!” Sprinkle is to be commended for having the courage to publically admit his change of mind about such a ‘hot’ subject (pun intended). But now I’m curious to know if Chan still believes in eternal conscious torture?

admin August 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Regarding Chan…I have not heard of any changes in his theology. Although the fact that his trusted researcher and co-author is no longer convinced that the Bible teaches eternal conscious torment must be somewhat personally unsettling for Chan. Who knows what goes on in his heart? It would be an intense decision to come out and declare a change in theology for someone like him with so many looking up to him for guidance. So I do not put much stock in what a leader says. They are under such pressure to conform and so much is at stake. I believe it will take a “wave” of conversions to Ultimate Restoration to coax most pastors/leaders out of the closet.

But like we pointed out in our article on Francis Chan, much of what Chan has written (and failed to mention) in his books indicts himself as a “functional believer” in UR at the heart level.

Chris Wileman August 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm

This honesty and searching of this author was very refreshing for me to hear… the backlash that I saw in my personal life and the lives of others from the “Love Wins” book was HORRENDOUS to me. It really showed me the religion that I had been a part of for over 20 years!

I was pretty much blacklisted and asked to step down from a “woman’s’ bible study leader” at an Evangelical church (that I had been a part of for 18 years!) after I shared the fact that I really enjoyed Bell’s book and did NOT allow them to rebuke me for that. I was told by a Pastor that I was a “bad influence” on the young people of our church.

This is when I realized that being “Biblical” and following the heart of Jesus were two completely different things. Being “biblical” simply means you’re following someone’s interpretation of scripture and how that is supposed to look in society.

I would prefer to follow the Spirit that Jesus promised He would send. (He never said anything about sending a bible or more scholars to follow, but yes, I DID read this in the scriptures! ).

Any way… in some small way this has helped to heal a horrible pain in my heart that I’ve been battling for over two years now. I wish people would be more aware of the “Hell” they create for others here when they decide to cast off and reject people because of their searchings.

Thank you.

admin August 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Chris, I am sorry to hear of your painful experience after showing support for Bell’s book. You are not alone but it can seem that way when there are still so few who feel the freedom to express their deep questions or their desire that the eschatological hope that Bell offers is true.

Following the heart of Jesus, yes. I am so glad that it is not our thoughts about God that define Him (which has led to over 40,000 denominations!) but rather His thoughts about us that define us: we are His image and likeness redeemed and revealed in Christ Jesus. There is only “ONE faith, one Lord, one baptism” (Eph 4:5) and it is the faith OF Jesus–His faith in the redemption He accomplished (see Gal 2:20 in the interlinear for example).

On this Francois du Toit said, “Jesus is the most accurate translation of the Bible… Any idea that we could have had of God that is unlike Jesus would not be true about God! In Jesus the forgotten Father of the human race introduces Himself to us again as our only true Father. There is only one true faith…what God believes about us!” (The Logic of His Love, pg 3)

I anticipate that in the near future it will be much more acceptable to embrace this Gospel of hope. Especially when the Church comes to understand that it has always supported this view as a Body… together (see article on this at God’s Love Wins: “How the Body of Christ Supports the Ultimate Restoration of All”).

Grace and peace to you…!

Brett Popp July 7, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Perhaps he should not write a book on a topic until he has come to a definitive conclusion.

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